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Lenovo ThinkPad Helix review

Verdict

Lenovo asserts its mastery of the Windows 8 hybrid with the ThinkPad Helix, but it comes at a cost

Review Date: 25 Jul 2013

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,474 (£1,769 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £1350
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

While most Windows 8 hybrids have sought to capture everyone’s attention, Lenovo’s ThinkPad Helix is happy to appeal to a more select audience: it’s the first one to take aim at the business user. With the body of an 11.6in tablet, the heart of an Ultrabook and a nifty keyboard dock, the Helix is Lenovo’s vision of a hybrid that’s destined for the boardroom.

At first glance, there’s no mistaking the Helix for anything but a traditional ThinkPad. It’s hewn from a slab of matte black, interrupted only by the occasional logo. There’s just the faintest hint of silver glitter in the matte finish, but with delicately tapered edges and a soft-touch rubberised feel to every inch of the chassis, this business-focused machine doesn’t draw attention to itself.

Business hardware is often synonymous with dull and boring design, but someone clearly didn’t tell the designers of the ThinkPad Helix. It isn’t as slender as Lenovo’s gorgeous ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but there’s a good reason for it: the Helix is actually a self-sufficient 11.6in tablet seamlessly mated to a keyboard dock.

The tablet itself weighs 848g – a little less than the 904g of Microsoft’s Surface Pro – and the keyboard adds another 822g to the total. That sounds a bit much, but it crams a lot in, adding an extra battery, a couple of USB 3 ports and a mini-DisplayPort output.

Features and design

With the tablet slotted in place, the Helix masquerades as an alluring 11.6in laptop. The full-sized keyboard lacks depth compared to the best ThinkPads, but it’s quite capable. The subtly scooped-out profile of the Scrabble-tile keys grips the finger, and the wide channels separating the keys make it easy to build up a rapid touch-typing cadence. Needless to say, it’s far superior to the Type Cover of the Microsoft Surface Pro.

The classic red trackpoint is set adrift in the keyboard’s centre, and there’s a huge, buttonless touchpad beneath. The only departure from standard ThinkPads concerns the trackpoint’s buttons, which are actually built into the top of the touchpad. Both work well, though, and as the touchpad is almost perfectly flush with the wristrest, Windows 8’s edge-swipes respond reliably to light flicks of the finger.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix

In laptop mode, the Helix’s display has a very limited amount of backward tilt, which leaves the display at a rather steep angle. It’s a compromise Lenovo has had to make to stop the Helix toppling backwards, whether on a desk or a lap – where it’s essential to gently counterbalance the tablet’s weight with your wrists – but it’s far from unworkable.

We had little trouble tapping out emails and reviews with the Helix sitting on our lap on a packed train or tube carriage – it’s certainly far more usable than the Surface Pro while out and about. Also, when you’ve finished working, you can flip the tablet around and dock it backwards, turning the keyboard base into an adjustable stand.

If you depress the small latch on the bottom left of the hinge, the tablet separates from the keyboard. Visually, it’s as plain and ordinary as tablets come, but it feels reassuringly sturdy, and it’s well appointed with features. Along the bottom edge, there’s a power input, a docking connector, a SIM card slot for the integrated 3G, a USB 3 port and a mini-DisplayPort output.

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User comments

A case for the Helix

Definitely check out the Hand made case I designed for my Helix.. :)
http://youtu.be/vLXm0Z0DBLc

By Routb3d on 29 Jul 2013

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By ibuycheappc on 30 Jul 2013

Forget it - this is no business machine.

Nice to have full HD, but FORGET IT. Beyond being insanely expensive, if you want to do any *serious* productive work, 11 inches is just too damned small. IMHO, 13" is an absolute minimum.

The 13.3" Lenovo Yoga looks better but why is it still 1,600x900?

Useless. Please get a grip Lenovo.

By ship69 on 31 Jul 2013

I've been using a thinkpad for years and it's the best computer I've had. Really like how this sounds.

By SamSamO on 4 Aug 2013

Brilliant, but careful when it goes wrong...

We have two in my office - one is working fine and is pretty good to work with. The other developed what seems to be a known fault - the 'mouse' gets stuck on screen at random times, so it makes the machine unusable as you cant properly click anywhere. Gone back in to service, and its been absolutely rubbish. Sent in on July 30th, and now in September, still waiting for it to be back....but they decided they cant repair it after excuses (as far as I'm concerned) about lack of parts and needing to test it, and finally are sending out a replacement, which is due to be sent from Lenovo to IBM to then come back to us on September 23rd. So nigh on 3 months for repair on a £1800 machine! We wont be buying more - no one can rely on this in business if this is the turn around time.

Its a brilliant machine to use, and probably the one of the best implementations of a convertible we have - including the Lenovo Twist, Yoga and Samsung Ativ, but clearly has a major design fault. Perhaps a v2 of this will iron this out.

By DMPRO6 on 15 Sep 2013

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